Healthy student ministries are culture shaping. Meaning, they produce students who shape the culture. When you look throughout scripture and church history, you see the Lord using young people to shape the culture. We need to embrace the reality that God still desires to do that today: to use young people to shape the culture. Alex and Brett Harris in their book, Do Hard Things address a similar issue.
An important question at this point is, do you believe that your students can shape the culture? The unfortunate thought of many is that students are too young to make a culture shaping difference in the world. Sure, they can make a difference with some friends, in their neighborhood or even rarely on their school campus. But shaping the culture? Really?
It is with that mindset that student ministry degenerates into a holding tank while the adults are discipled or turns into years of “preparation” for them to get ready to do something big for the Lord. The core of this thought is that students are weak. Here is the reality: God who is fully powerful and can do whatever He pleases has chosen to use the weak things of the world to exert His influence (Psalm 8:1-2, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
God, who doesn’t need anyone or anything, chooses to use those who are weak. He is attracted to childlike faith and dependence upon Him. As student pastors, we must believe and lead around the truth that students are not merely the church of the future, but they are people that God will use to shape the culture around us right now. Challenge your students with this reality.
1. Challenge them with how the gospel impacts their lives.
This may seem simple, but it is something that is often missed by leaders and by the students as they live. Help them to see how the gospel connects to the decisions that they make every day. This is a constant process. Don’t give up. Without a life centered on the gospel they will be shaped by the culture rather than shaping it.
2. Involve them in challenging mission opportunities locally and globally.
Give them leadership in these opportunities. It is ok for your students to be in situations that are not easy for them both physically and spiritually.
3. Never let them forget that, in Christ, they can have a culture-shaping influence.
Tell them and show them that you believe in them. Celebrate stories of how students are having a culture shaping influence both in your ministry and from students around the world. Always connect it to God’s work through the student and how other students can be a part of something much bigger than themselves.
Students can and will shape this culture. I believe it. The reality is that this culture believes it too. Marketers will spend a tremendous amount of energy attempting to influence them because of this truth. If you work with students, God has given you an opportunity and responsibility to influence a group of culture shaping people. Will you challenge them and give them opportunities to do so for the gospel?
- Element #1: Kingdom Expanding
- Element #2: Character Transforming
- 3 Elements of a Healthy Student Ministry
Ben Trueblood serves as the Director of Student Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources and has served the local church as a student pastor for thirteen years. In addition to his role at Lifeway Ben is involved in training, consulting, and speaking to student ministries throughout the U.S.